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Muslim Women and Sport.

Muslim Women and Sport: Tansin Benn, Gertrud Pfister, and Haifaa Jawad (Eds.).

This book provides a powerful and valuable introduction to the global experiences, challenges, and achievements of Muslim women participating in physical activities and sport. Muslim Women and Sport is the first book (in range, depth, and courage) to discuss the sensitive issues of religion, culture, gender, sport, and diverse realities in the lives of many Muslim girls and women from across Europe, North and South Africa, and many countries of the Middle East. The challenges and opportunities for women in sport in both Muslim and non-Muslim countries are well documented in the book, offering illustrations of diverse realities in this regard. It is a collection of works by researchers and practitioners in sport who are experts in Muslim women's issues, either through personal experiences or through working alongside Muslim girls and women to increase knowledge and understanding of issues related to participation in physical activity. The book provides the only international collection of such works to date. Twenty-three authors from both Western and Eastern backgrounds contributed to this collection, allowing for rich insights from a variety of points of view and perspectives. Diverse ideological orientations, life histories, and contexts are mirrored in their writings.

The book is divided into four parts. The introduction and conclusion by the editors (Benn, Pfister & Jawad) contain useful overviews of the field, history of the emergence of international dialogue, and recommendations for ways to increase participation opportunities for Muslim girls and women globally. Part one contains three chapters and examines underpinning perspectives. Chapter one (by Dagkas, Koushkie-Jahromi, & Talbot) reaffirms the value of physical education, physical activities, and sport in the lives of young Muslim women. One of the interesting ideas discussed in this chapter is that while in Islamic countries, such as Iran, the sporting structure builds in Islamic requirements for modesty in dress and sex segregation, Muslim women in more Westernised or secular contexts can struggle to find conducive environments in which to practice physical education or sport. Generally, the topics of Islam, women, and sport have been discussed in different languages in the Islamic world; however, there is very little such literature written in the English language (for greater global access).

Chapter two of the book (by Jawad, Al-Sinani, & Benn) takes an important critical-historical approach to issues of religion and culture by examining tenets of early and revivalist Islam, in order to increase understanding of the diversity of Muslim women's experiences described in the book. It clarifies overlaps of religion and culture that are sometimes used to limit or restrict women's participation in physical activity, and explains the diverse ways in which faith is embodied and expressed throughout the book. The overall conclusion of this chapter is that Islam promotes good health and fitness, and encourages both men and women to engage in physical activity to maintain healthy lifestyles.

Chapter three (Pfister) gives a valuable overview of socio-cultural theories used to explore issues of religion, culture, and gender, and applies these in a case study in Denmark where migrant Muslim women meet European sporting structures not designed to meet Islamic requirements.

Part two of the book documents different experiences of Muslim women in sport from Islamic and non-Islamic countries. The collections and debates of different situations are interestingly juxtaposed, providing new insights into how the historical, social, and political context can influence the lives of women and participation in sport. National perspectives are shared from Bahrain, Germany, Iran, Oman, Syria, and Turkey. Each of the six chapters of this part includes information that provides contextual knowledge of the country, key social-historical issues impacting the lives of women today, and information on the contemporary position of Muslim girls and women in the areas of physical activity, specifically in education, the community, and elite sport. The section provides rich material for scholars to conduct comparative studies.

In addition to providing different experiences from various countries, the third part of the book provides case studies from Palestine, South Africa, Turkey, and United Arab Emirates. The cases examine multiple ways in which people experience culture, Islam, and sport participation. For example, this part describes the ways in which sport has been used in the lives of Muslim girls and women with learning disabilities in the United Arab Emirates, thus adding insight into the intersection of culture, gender, and disability issues--which are rarely explored in Gulf-region countries. This section also explores the experiences of girls and women in Muslim majority and minority populations, in both school and sporting contexts. The Turkish case is interesting because it reveals tensions between religion and state in the life experience of an Olympic athlete who had to choose between her faith and her sport identity.

The reader who finds part three of particular interest should also turn to part four of this book, which contains narratives from three countries. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, sport helped women to get through the war and to rebuild the country. Life experiences of Muslim women Olympians from Morocco are shared. Finally, women from Iraq tell of the impact of war on a previously strong 'women in sport' movement in their country and the devastation created by foreign invasion. All of these bring rarely discussed women's spaces and experiences to public attention.

The conclusion of this book offers recommendations based on the principles of the 'Accept and Respect' Declaration (international declaration to improve participation of Muslim girls and women in physical education, available in different languages at to increase understanding of and opportunities for Muslim girls and women in physical activity. The uniqueness of the book is in the blend of researcher and practitioner contributions and in the scope of voices heard. Insider views are shared by those who live and work in the countries they write about, induding countries that are Islamic, under the Shari'ah law, and others that have Muslim majority or minority populations. The editors' introductions to chapters are also useful in signposting key aspects, and the whole book makes an enormous contribution to the dearth of literature available on this subject. It will increase international knowledge and sensitivity in the field. Muslim Women and Sport will be of interest to scholars, practitioners, policy makers, students, and researchers interested in comparative studies, socio-cultural issues, sport, gender, education, policy, and Islamic studies.

Reviewed by: Majid AL-Busafi, Sultan Qaboos University
COPYRIGHT 2012 American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD)
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Author:Al-Busafi, Majid
Publication:Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2012
Previous Article:Together Stronger: The Future of Sport: a review of the 5th World Conference of Women and Sport.

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